It was harder looking for lost members of the apocalypse than Ronnie remembered. Mostly they honed in on him to provide free alcohol after a long slog at work, there being more apocalypses back in the day when wizards grew towers and witches built projects, and normal people made war, understanding neither concept nor the conceptial art.
The Discworld had been built to look pretty from space, and was equipped with more natural weather systems than whatever place most of the newest inhabitants had evacuated from. The newest inhabitants including swamp dragons, elves, goblins, dwarfs and more humans. There were always humans.
Ronnie didn't expect to find anyone other than human. So it was to his surprise when he located Famine amongst the Nac Mac Feegle, War atop a mountain with yetis, and Pestilence hovering over the trolls. Death still hadn't showed up, as a quick search around his office yielded. He had left most of his important sigils strung up on a bookstand. It was like walking around naked, rather like Ronnie did in the dairy.
Ronnie really wondered when Death had started to let himself go.
He chaotically checked some of the more dangerous places in Four-Ecks and Klatch. Lots of magic had built up over the millenia, and he recalled when Pestilence had lost his horse to the Great Nef.
Searching didn't reveal anything. So he started to ask around. Cori Celeste was up first.
To his horror he met the Valkyrie's riding school first; War's daughter and sons were there, but hadn't spotted him. He flew into the side door as a cyclone, and shapeshifted into a regular godly being, strong muscles and very male.
He was greeted by angels. Contrary to opinion, the Horsemen made up the elite classes, but behaved somewhat backwards.
"Hiya, babe," he said to an angel. "Have you seen Mort?"
"Death?" said the angel, wiping spittle off her wing. "No, no," she said, thinking. "He was seen last over in Bes Pelargic dealing with snakes."
"Thanks, babe," said Kaos and grinned. "Do you fancy dinner s—"
He ducked laughing as she hurled a lightning bolt at him.
Ronnie found Death in the Agatean cat sanctuary.
He was lying on the ground, covered in cats, most long-haired and plain-coloured. Cat fur was everywhere.
He appeared to be unconscious, or in severe deep thought. Two cats were balanced atop his skull, shielding his expression.
Ronnie lifted one cat and dumped it on a shelf.
One very small white dot was still visible in one eye socket. The other eye was obviously shut.
Ronnie kicked him in the ribs. "Wake up, Mort! You've caused me no end of hassle."
Death's skull turned to the left. The other cat's tail dangled into his right eye socket.
"Mew!" it meeped cheerfully. Ronnie wasn't sure if all cats could see them, or only the magical variety. Several cats looked fed up at their bony bed shifting around.
Death stuck his arms out, and moved as if he had to think about every movement in advance.
The cats poured off him, but not the cat fur.
Death stood up, swaying a little, with only one cat still perched on his head.
Both eyes flared into 'life'. Death squinted at Ronnie Soak.
WHY ARE YOU HERE?
"I've been looking for you everywhere, old boy, that's why. Susan can't work two jobs, not at her age. She's still very human, and she's got a class to teach. Why can't that bloody Albert do it?"
"You don't get hungover, not unless we want it." Ronnie grinned wickedly and floated a large amount of cat hair onto Death's skull. He patted it on him, and even stuck some cat fluff around his jaw like a beard. Most of it was white, but Ronnie managed to rearrange a ginger streak through it.
Death batted him away, and brought the scythe into view. He leaned on it heavily, like a stick.
"You can't shave yourself with that. Ha!" said Ronnie. "You'll be a right old sight walking into Cori Celeste like that. I doubt they'd let you in."
I'M NOT WEARING A SUIT.
YOU MENTIONED… YOU'VE BEEN TALKING TO SUSAN.
"And you remember talking about me later to her."
Death nodded. SHE WILL SPEAK ILL OF YOU.
Ronnie shrugged. "Can we get back to my vats now? The butter needs stirring."
Death stared. I REMEMBER… IT GETS INTERESTING.
Ronnie guided Death back overseas towards Ankh-Morpork. He smelt horribly like cats and booze. The cat fur had blown off backwards over Ronnie. He was half-debating with himself as to whether a quick dip in the ocean would remove the fluff.
DO YOU THINK HE WILL LIKE FLOWERS?
Ronnie said, spitting out cat hair, "Who?"
I MEET HIM AFTER SUSAN. HE'S… INTERESTING.
"Lobsang? He's staying with his mum these days. Turn left now into the eddy."
Death lost balance and twirled. He found the right direction at last and sped up.
Ronnie rolled his eyes, and followed at a fast gait.
Reg Shoe approached the weird junior school that Susan Sto Helit worked at. They'd sent a note to the Watch when she failed to show up at work that morning. Apparently her grandfather took ill at spontaneous moments, but she usually informed them before disappearing.
Reg Shoe and Angua supposed it was due to Biers. They were greeted by Madam Frout.
They were about to go in when Reg saw two people crash-land into the playground.
"Hoy!" he yelled. "Angua, that's that man from the Brass Bridge! He escaped this morning!"
Reg started running.
"The milkman Mr Soak?" he heard her ask from way behind.
Reg Shoe put on a faster spurt of speed and hurled himself over a low fence, designed to keep small children in.
He whipped out his handcuffs as he drew level. Soak was getting up and untangling himself from a vicious implement and a thin black cape, which was more voluminous than Reg expected. Inside was another pale person, this time, Death.
ER, CONSTABLE REG SHOE, ISN'T IT?
"You're under arrest," shouted Reg, attempting to handcuff the milkman. It was a strange scene that was unfolding before him.
Angua caught up, and swung herself at Soak; she managed to pull one arm behind his back before he went intangible again. Together, both undead police officers struggled to clap the handcuffs on.
Death stood up. THANK YOU. HE WAS GETTING MORE IRRITATING THE CLOSER WE GOT TO HOME.
Ronnie Soak gave in. "Fine, fine, I'll get back to the guild quicker like this. It's better than fetching Susan for a good old family reunion."
Death nodded, and with a click of his fingers, disappeared. A trace of animal hair wafted to the ground.
Angua led him in the direction of the Watch House. "You're related to Susan, then?" Reg heard her ask. Two more watchmen, both trolls, had lumbered to help Angua.
Reg stayed to retrieve his fingers. He fumbled for his repair kit, and jammed his needle into his knuckle.
REG SHOE? asked a pale spectre, fading into view.
"I'm not ready yet," he muttered. "I'm a watchman now, not an undead equal rights activist. Lord Vetinari had words."
I KNOW, said Death. IT'S WRITTEN DOWN SOMEWHERE WHAT HE SAID.
"And I didn't say anything," said Reg Shoe bitterly. He sucked at the thread, and rethreaded the needle.
Death paused. DO YOU PREFER ROSES OR PETUNIAS?
"I've put too many roses on my own grave," said Reg. "Over the years, they turn to mush."
Death tried again. DO YOU LIKE CURRY?
"Why?" asked Reg. "It's hard enough trying to get formaldehyde in." He sighed. "I used to."
He contemplated Death before him. "Why are you still here?"
Death gave in. WOULD YOU LIKE DINNER AT SIX?
Reg inwardly blinked. First Slant, now Death. Somehow, after Slant, he was immensely popular. Ooh-er.
He smiled. "Perhaps I would, but first I've got a suspect to catch up on."
Back at the Watch House, Reg Shoe, Mr Slant, Death, Angua and Ronnie Soak all piled into the same room.
"This is very unusual," said Mr Slant. "Why have I been brought here?"
I AM WAITING FOR SUSAN, stated Death.
"We're not," said Angua. "Mr Soak you are charged with causing an affray on the Brass Bridge at eight forty nine this morning. You have the right to remain quiet. You have the right to contact a lawyer –"
"Me, I think," said Slant. "Although I charge two hundred dollars an hour."
Reg Shoe gulped and turned to Death. "How much do you earn, sir?" he asked.
NOTHING, said Death. A TIDIER WORLD, PERHAPS.
"What about all those coins?" said Slant. "You keep paying Klatchian Gardens with them. It's dreadful trying to exchange them for modern currency."
BE QUIET. RONNIE, WHAT ARE YOU IN TROUBLE FOR?
"Nothing like the old days," said Ronnie Soak. "I haven't thrown a machine out of a hotel window for aeons, nor have I disturbed the fabric of reality, or shot at anyone."
Angua growled, "We're setting the bail at fifty dollars."
Mr Slant said, "I see no further need on my part to stay this evening. May I introduce a better supernatural lawyer tomorrow, Mr Soak?"
"I –" said Reg Shoe, "– want his sword examined forensically."
"I'll have the lawyer tomorrow," said Ronnie. He heaved his sword out of his belt and handed it over. Constable Reg Shoe gave him a ticket in return.
"As you wish," said Slant, and without looking at Reg, left the Watch House.
Death peered at Ronnie. YOU ARE STAYING HERE, AM I CORRECT?
"Yes, for tonight," said Ronnie. "The yoghurt's already crawled out of the pots by now. A hazard of living in Ankh-Morpork, y'know."
Death met Reg Shoe outside.
I HAVE TO GO NOW. IT WAS AN INTERESTING DATE.
"A date?" said Reg. "That was Watch business!"
IT'S GONE PAST SIX, said Death peevishly. I HAVE TO RETURN TO WORK.
"You work the night shift, then?" asked Reg.
I WORK WHEN REQUIRED. SUSAN MUST BE VERY BORED BY NOW.
"So she moonlights when she's not a school teacher?"
NO. THE HORSE SHOWS UP. BINKY LIKES HER.
"And Binky is…?"
Reg gave in. "Shall we say Thursday at six again?"
Death grinned. IT'S A DATE!